EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

December 26, 2012

'She's an inspiration'

Blind JROTC member is a leader and honors student

LAWRENCE — During a recent half time at a Lawrence High School girls basketball game, Gabryela Nunez did not miss a beat as she stomped her feet, clapped her hands and slapped her thighs, feet and chest as part of the school’s JROTC unarmed stepping presentation.

Born blind, Nunez did it all by listening to student instructor, 1st Lt. Nestor Hernandez, and following the sounds of the footsteps of her fellow JROTC members. Nunez did not need any assistance and team members only had to tell her when to turn right or left.

“Stepping is fun and it gives me something to do,” said Nunez, a freshman in the Humanities, Leadership and Development Academy.

Hernandez admits he was apprehensive when Nunez joined JROTC.

“I didn’t know how to react and how to approach the situation, but she made it easy because of her willingness to learn and the girls wanted to teach her,” said Hernandez, a junior in the Human Leadership Development High School.

“She has made us a better team because she has shown us not to judge a book by its cover, to be more accepting to others and that with patience and perseverance, anything can happen,” Hernandez said.

Earlier this month, the Lawrence Battalion, of which Nunez is part, won the 2012-2013 Governor’s Cup High JROTC for earning the most medals in all of the state-wide competitions throughout the year. Nunez joined the JROTC on the first day of school.

“After she finished the stepping routine, it was so beautiful, I got chocked up,” JROTC Sgt. Major Paul Ronan said.

JROTC Major Kathleen Romano and Sgt. Robert Kujawa lead the program along with Ronan.

“She started off uneven with her left and right side, but was soon doing 10 pushups, which helped her build up her upper body and abs,” Romano said.

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